Dick Summer reveals the REAL father of classic rock radio inBoston

Dan Strassberg dan.strassberg@att.net
Tue Aug 1 07:17:23 EDT 2006

What triggered the affiliation shift was WTRY being sold to a group from
Providence RI headed by a guy named Mowry Lowe. I believe the price was
$800,000, which sounds like a little bit today, but by the standards of more
than 50 years ago, was a high price--justified by the station's high
billings. I think Lowe and his partners owned WEAN 790 (now WSKO) in
Providence and they had had considerable success with it as a
locally-programmed music-and-news (MOR) station modeled on New York City's
WNEW. Lowe's timing was excellent because TV was making the entertainment
fare--but not the news--offered by the four major radio networks (ABC, CBS,
Mutual, and NBC) increasingly irrelevant. Despite their lack of network
news, locally programmed stations were starting to do very well compared
with the network affiliaites.

Anyhow, WTRY, as a CBS affiliate, had had several local programs that were
top-rated in the market. One was Paul Flanagan's Tri-City Ballroom, a
call-in request show (no calls on air) heard Saturday nights from 10:00 PM
to 1:00 AM. The program was noted for jamming the New York Telephone Co's
local switchboards with calls from teens trying to vote for their favorite
record of the week. The 1954 advent of rock-n-roll as the major
recorded-music genre only increased the show's popularity. WTRY also had
another local legend, Roy Schutt's First-Prize Musical Clock, which aired
Monday-thru-Friday mornings from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM (right before Arthur
Godfrey, as long as WTRY was affiliated with CBS). This show, sponsored by a
local meat packer (First Prize bologna and hot dogs) seemed to appeal to the
grandparents of Flanagan's audience. Grandma and Grandpa would call (not on
air) to have Schutt announce their grandkids' birthdays. Rumor had it that
most school-bus drivers in the market would play the show on the bus radios
so the kids could hear the announcements.

When WTRY switched from CBS to MOR, Flanagan was already a local legend. The
switch gave him more airtime (a weekday PM-drive show) and only heightened
his popularity. Schutt, who already had obscenely high ratings (IIRC, more
than a 40 share), continued to draw those ratings even though he was about
as cornball and un-hip as one could imagine.

WTRY had a very savvy and quite hip PD, Randy English, whose personal taste
was, obviously, not reflected in most of what the station broadcast but he
was really tuned in to what the market wanted and knew how to deliver it.
I'm sure that English must have regarded the departure of CBS and the
consequent addition of something like 10 hours a day of local programming as
a golden opportunity. The Providence folks brought with them their local
star, a DJ named Ernie Anderson, who did mid mornings. I thought he was
horrendous, but his ratings on WTRY were great too. And besides the PM-drive
top-40 show, Flanagan added a nightly (7:00 PM to 8:00 PM, IIRC) EZ show
called Lemonade Concert (the theme song was David Rose's Seranade to a
Lemonade), which also garnered good ratings and kept a lot of the radio
listeners tuned in for an extra hour before they switched off their radios
and turned on their TVs.

Back in the mid-50s, most people regarded the decline of the daytime radio
soap operas and the departure to TV of headlined nighttime fare, such as
Fred Allen, Jack Benny, and Gunsmoke, as signs of the end of radio's Golden
Age. In fact, though, those events marked the beginning of a second Golden
Age, denoted by the pre-eminence of local MOR and Top-40. Among stations in
mid-sized markets, WTRY was fortunate to be a shining star of both of those
Golden Ages.

Dan Strassberg, dan.strassberg@att.net
eFax 707-215-6367

----- Original Message -----
From: "A. Joseph Ross" <joe@attorneyross.com>
To: "Rick Kelly" <rickkelly@gmail.com>
Cc: "boston Radio Interest" <boston-radio-interest@rolinin.bostonradio.org>
Sent: Monday, July 31, 2006 11:00 PM
Subject: Re: Dick Summer reveals the REAL father of classic rock radio

> Sometime around 1955, or maybe 1956, there was a major shift of radio
> network affiliations in the Albany area.  CBS went from WTRY to WROW,
> leaving WTRY without a network affiliation.  ABC went from WROW to
> WPTR.  And Mutual went from WPTR to WOKO.  The only network that
> stayed put was NBC on WGY.
> > Paul Flanagan was a painfully shy guy, I tried unsuccessfully (by
> > annoying the hell out of him with constant phone calls)to mentor me
> > but he just wouldnt.
> I remember Paul Flanagan on WTRY, and then he moved to WPTR sometime
> in 1956, I think.
> --
> A. Joseph Ross, J.D.                           617.367.0468
>  15 Court Square, Suite 210                 Fax 617.742.7581
> Boston, MA 02108-2503                    http://www.attorneyross.com

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